The student activism that began at University of Missouri and then spread across campuses nationwide in November and on into December have not died out, they’ve just quieted down. Many students are working for change and making demands — and so are some faculty.
Perhaps none more so than those at Ithaca College. On Monday, 78% of full-time faculty there voted “no confidence” in president Tom Rochon, according to a statement written by the Ithaca College Faculty Council. There was an 86.6% rate of voter turnout with 406 out of 469 eligible faculty voting.
The results mirror a student vote of no-confidence released by the Student Government Association on Nov. 30. Approximately 3,700 students responded (a little more than half the student population) with 71.75% voting “no confidence.”
After that vote was tallied up, student body president Dom Recckio presented a new student government model. The first step: a value session, which “will assess what students value in a leader. Data will be advocated by the student government association and then it will be given to the board of trustees,” said Recckio.
Over the past couple of weeks, student activists led by People of Color at Ithaca College have held a silent protest and a week-long sit-in at the admissions building on campus. Most recently, POC at IC held its second walkout of the semester, on Dec. 11.
Rochon spoke at the walkout, saying, “We get things done together only by learning together. I want you all to know that I am all in for Ithaca College. The leadership of the college is all in for Ithaca College. We ask the faculty, the staff, the student body to consider carefully what they can do to contribute to the college and also be all in for Ithaca College.”
Rochon and Tom Grape, chair of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees, according to the school’s student newspaper, The Ithacan, issues responses after the vote: “’The message that has come through to me in the form of the student and faculty votes has been a difficult one to hear, but I am listening. … I remain determined to improve Ithaca College’s culture for the better, and that includes improving my own approach to collaborating with our faculty, staff, and students.’”
Grape said the board of trustees would be briefed and that “an update would be shared … early in the spring semester,” according to the paper.
The first solidarity walkout, in mid-November — following the resignation of University of Missouri System president Tim Wolfe — which was organized by POC at IC, had also called for Rochon to leave his post. The event, which reportedly included some 600 students and faculty, was the result of growing anger at what students said was Rochon’s lackluster responses to systematic racism on campus.
The incidents range from reportedly offensive remarks made by Public Safety officers at RA training sessions as well as by two Ithaca alumni at a campus event, to a racially tinged party invite from a fraternity.
According to the post-vote statement from the faculty: “Since Rochon arrived on campus in summer 2008, faculty have issued many public statements, petitions, letters to the campus newspaper, and op-eds articulating their opposition to his autocratic leadership style and other grievances. This semester’s vote of no confidence is the product of several years of profound faculty dissatisfaction.”
Sam Lisker is a student at Ithaca College and a member of the USA TODAY College contributor network.